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    Description

    (1786) Non Vi Virtute Vici, New Jersey Shield
    Maris 4.5-pp, Good 6
    The Only Known Example

    (1786) Non Vi Virtute Vici, New Jersey Shield, Maris 4.5-pp, Breen-1134, W-5740, Unique, Good 6 NGC. 112.6 grains. Die alignment 120º. A fascinating coin, offered as unique when it was first sold at auction in 1882 and still considered to be the only example known. Although generally categorized as a pattern piece, the physical evidence suggests that calling it a die trial may be more accurate. The depression seen at the I of PLURIBUS on the reverse indicates that the severely underweight planchet on which it was struck was far from choice. The double striking of the coin, most evident on the obverse but seen on both sides, indicates a lack of care in production. The lack of reverse detail at BUS and the upper right part of the shield points to a possible die failure, which, given that this is the only known example of any kind using this die, appears likely. In sum, this was not a piece struck to showcase one's skill in coining. Both sides show significant circulation wear, so it would appear that this failed die trial was simply tossed into circulation. While it may not have succeeded as a trial piece, however, the Maris 4.5-pp has much to teach us about the circumstances in which many of our early coppers were produced.

    The bold double striking to the obverse, with the second and more prominent strike significantly off-center, complicated earlier efforts to investigate the relationship of this mysterious coin to others of the era. Although the dies bear clear connections both to the other NON VI VIRTUTE VICI pieces and the New Jersey series, the obverse figure is so poorly defined as to frustrate efforts to identify it, and the reverse does not match any die married to a standard horse head copper. The key to solving this problem turned out to be the obverse legend. In New Jersey State Coppers (2013), authors Siboni, Howes, and Ish showed via overlapping images that the obverse of the Maris 4.5-pp is the same die used to produce the Large Head NON VI VIRTUTE VICI piece (Musante GW-6, Breen 976). The double striking makes this difficult to establish visually, but the lettering matches exactly and the figure, though lacking in detail, falls into place once the lettering is superimposed. It is important to note that Walter Breen had established this connection in his 1988 Complete Encyclopedia, though he hadn't the technology to prove it.

    Breen attributed the manufacture of this piece to James Atlee. Breen has been criticized in recent years for his tendency to reach seemingly firm conclusions on often flimsy evidence, but in this particular case current scholarship agrees with him. The authors of the recent The History and Coinage of Machin's Mills, Jack Howes, James Rosen, and Gary Trudgen, ascribe the Large Head NON VI to James Atlee, working in the New York City Brewery Mint, and write of the Maris 4.5-pp that it "is believed to have been produced by James Atlee and Walter Mould during Mould's early involvement with the New Jersey coinages." Both sides of this coin bear the distinctive sawmill denticles that are a hallmark of the Mould/Atlee productions. While the attribution of this piece to these men will probably remain speculative, the evidence fits this reasoning very well.

    This piece made its first appearance before the numismatic community in March 1882, when Scott & Company offered it at auction. David Proskey, who catalogued the sale, described it as: "Both obverse and reverse different to anything heretofore described; the reverse is not pictured in Dr. Maris' work on the coins of New Jersey. In poor condition, but unique." The coin sold for a strong $25.50. In the March 1882 issue of Numisma, Ed Frossard wrote that it was "bought for Dr. Maris." By 1885, however, it was in the collection of Lorin G. Parmelee, and listed as such in W.S. Baker's Medallic Portraits of Washington, published that year. An electrotype of the coin appeared in the 1886 auction of Maris's collection (lot 498), suggesting the possibility that Maris bought the coin, had an electrotype of it made, and then sold the original to Parmelee.

    The Maris 4.5-pp is an intriguing coin that is a direct antecedent of the New Jersey and Machin's Mills coppers and a very early example of a Washington token. It has been 40 years since it was last offered at auction; when it will next be available is impossible to say. Not listed in the 2021 Guide Book.
    Ex: J.W. Scott, Sale 40, lot 155; Lorin G. Parmelee (New York Coin & Stamp Co., 6/1890), lot 369; Charles Steigerwalt; Col. James W. Ellsworth; Garrett Family Collection (Bowers and Ruddy, 10/1980), lot 1388; Donald G. Partrick.

    Coin Index Numbers: (NGC ID# 7HV6, PCGS# 661000)


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    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    March, 2021
    17th-18th Wednesday-Thursday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 24
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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